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Can the Trail Blazers Keep Carmelo Anthony?

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Come to think of it, do they really want to?

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Portland Trail Blazers Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Carmelo Anthony has been a huge success story for the Portland Trail Blazers this season. He’s eliciting plenty of questions for the Blazer’s Edge Mailbag too! Today we tackle a pair of them.

Dave,

What’s the future look like for Carmelo? We guaranteed his contract for this season. But then what? Would it make sense to try and keep him? And what would that take? Or is it completely unrealistic to think we could keep him without spending too much.

Dave

Hail, Dave! And well met, you no-doubt-handsome fellow, you! *shares secret Dave nod*

I’m not sure there’s much revolutionary to say here. I suspect Carmelo and the Blazers will part ways after the season and that it’ll be a mutual decision.

For ‘Melo, the decision seems polar. Either he can’t play well, in which case the Blazers won’t want him, or he can, in which case it’ll make more sense for him to join a higher-profile team closer to contending. His 30’s are passing. He didn’t even know he’d get the shot in Portland for sure. Who knows when this opportunity will come again? If he has a chance to join, say, the Lakers or Celtics, that’d make far more sense than extending his stay here.

There will be some mewling about loyalty to a team that “gave him the chance”. That’s only half the story, maybe less. Nobody “gave” ‘Melo anything. He worked to stay ready, Portland had a hole in the roster, and they contracted with him to provide services. That contract lasts through summer. Once it’s done, both parties will have gotten what they agreed to. Anthony has no further obligation to the team, nor they to him. Both parties will need to do what’s best for them. If staying together is best, fantastic. If not, nobody should complain.

This isn’t one-sided. There’s legitimate doubt whether retaining Anthony would be best for the Blazers. His contract would eat into any cap space they preserve for summer. Re-signing him could make sense if they make a mid-season deal that takes them out of free agency. Otherwise, they’ll want to spend their dough on younger, more suitable, options.

Plus, as well as Anthony has produced for the Blazers, his contributions don’t appear to be affecting the win total much. Portland is a defensive sieve. Their offense is ponderous and predictable. That’s ok in a lost season where Anthony serves as both storyline and distraction. It’s far less interesting as a long-term option. The Blazers aren’t going to be interested in nostalgia in 2021, but winning. Carmelo probably won’t get them there.

Here’s the look behind the magician’s cape for the 2019-20 season. A couple of veterans are producing incredibly well for the Blazers. They’re able to do that because, at this point, that’s what the season is about. Their unbridled production is the consolation prize for a campaign gone off the rails, a feel-good story in an otherwise far-below-expectations year. The correlation isn’t just casual, it’s causal. If the Blazers were battling the Los Angeles Lakers for the top seed in the West, would Anthony still be getting an all-you-can-eat buffet of shots every other game? Would he and other veterans be able to play past their weaknesses as if they didn’t matter when ever win was crucial? Every time you see one of these guys put up amazing numbers, it’s more a sign that the team isn’t where they hoped to be than a sign they’re getting there.

It’s perfectly possible to appreciate EVERYTHING Carmelo Anthony has brought to the roster—regarding his talent, production and legacy highly—while still believing that he won’t be the answer in the years to come. Blazers fans should enjoy him while he’s here, but be ready to move on when he leaves.

Dave,

Seeing Melo makes me think two things. That he’s still pretty incredible and where are the players like him now? There are lots of great players still, but I remember growing up with more big guy stars. Not just centers, but where are the forwards?

James

This is largely a function of rule changes. In the 90’s, when defenders could channel and bully people all over the court, size provided a huge advantage. Being taller, heavier, or more muscular allowed players to shrug off “handsy” defenders. It was the age of the shooting guard and small forward. Players who could do what small guards did, just with more size advantage, had the inside track to stardom.

In the modern NBA, defenders can’t touch players outside of the post. With the need for leverage lessened, size is less of an advantage. Quickness creates separation, and thus matters more.

It’s no longer the era of players who can do what guards do, because guards are doing what guards do! Size can be a modest disadvantage, in that bigger players tend to move more slowly. Physical specimens like LeBron James and ultra-talented 7-footers like Kevin Durant will always excel, but pound for pound point guards are having a bigger impact on the game than power forwards because the former can shake defenders easier than the latter.

Carmelo Anthony’s isolation offense is brilliant. When he’s defended one-on-one in an equal-size matchup, he might as well be on the floor alone. But that style of offense is a product of a bygone era. It carries all the risk of a covered jump shot and all the time cost of iso posting for an ultimate reward of two points.

Modern guards score quicker off the drive or jump shots than isolation forwards. They reduce the risk of a miss by getting to the rim for a layup or foul shots. They up the average reward of each shot by taking threes. Over time, all of that tends to pay off more than the Isosaurus offense does.

Good shooting guards and forwards still exist, but (on average) we’re not seeing them dominate as much as they used to because the environment around them has changed. If the league ever changes the rules again to allow defenders more latitude, size will matter more again and we’ll see the big men return.

Thanks for the questions! Y’all can send them in to blazersub@gmail.com anytime!

Also please help us in the closing weeks of ticket donations for Blazer’s Edge Night, sending 2000+ children and youth to the Moda Center to see the Blazers face the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 17th. Here’s how:

Click this link: Trail Blazers Group Ticket Portal

Type in this promo code: BLAZERSEDGE

That’s it! Just purchase the tickets as if you were buying them for yourself, and they’re AUTOMATICALLY DONATED to kids in need!

Please help out if you can, and Go Blazers!

P.S. If you like socks...

The good folks at Hoopswagg.com are once again partnering with us this year. They’ve designed the socks you see right below. You can purchase them through this link. When you buy a pair of socks, they buy a ticket for a participant to go to Blazer’s Edge Night. Want some nifty footwear for yourself while you send someone to see the Blazers play? This is the way to go!